The east end of Piccadilly leading to Piccadilly Circus is a lively shopping area packed with historic architecture and art including Burlington House, now home of the Royal Academy and other learned societies, the 17th century church of St James Piccadilly, the Ritz, Fortnum and Mason’s and Waterstone’s in the modernist former Simpson’s of Piccadilly. The west end, as you turn out of Green Park station, is rather different. At the far end is Apsley House, otherwise known as No 1 London and once the most western of a series of fine 18th century mansions, several of which were demolished to create the modern gyratory system and road connection up to Park Lane. Some of these mansions still remain, now in new uses or, like Cambridge House (formerly the In and Out Club) and the adjoining buildings, shrouded in scaffolding as they are redeveloped as exclusive private homes and apartments overlooking Green Park.
The eclectic Victorian building at Nos 90-93 which dates back to the early 1880′s, then called Green Park Chambers, with shops on the ground floor and chambers above designed by John G Finch Noyes, has planning permission (2015) to create three basement levels of parking, retail units at the ground floor and basement levels and six prestigious residential apartments above. Tucked away between the hoardings that surround the building is the Herrick Gallery with a simple flexible gallery space on the ground floor and a fascinating space in the basement, with exposed brick, remains of a old fireplace, an old door apparently leading nowhere and an impressive intriguing arched space going under the road itself. Was this a secret tunnel somewhere? It is thought that at one time the space was occupied by a Pharmacy. Were mysterious medical potions created in the basement, with the fireplace alight to provide heat for their creation?
This mysterious space, now occupied by the Herrick Gallery, was, a week ago, showing work curated by Art Below linked to the posters on display in Hyde Park Station. This week, Iranian artist Azadah Ghotbi’s has been showing her recent photographs ‘The Nature of Light’ with work that has a timelessness that perhaps relates back to the history of leaving her homeland. Early morning mist swirls round the forest trees, then as daylight arrives the images become more animated, swirling, taking on a life of their own, then as the day progresses the light become more abstract, as the sun creates coloured layers across the sky, almost like the Aurora Borealis.
‘The passing of time has only made me further appreciate and cherish the importance of history, roots and cultural ties. Diaspora, statelessness, transience, lack of continuity are my “normal”. However, I have found that such experience can bear unexpected gifts of strength, adaptability, empathy, and a heightened sense of observation. The cumulative effect of all this imparts and reflects itself upon my work.’ (Azadah Ghotbi)